Saturday, January 13, 2024: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Archives, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Mathieu Despard, PhD, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Terri Friedline, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Trina Shanks, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Leah Hamilton, PhD, Appalachian State University and Joanna Smith-Ramani, MPP, Aspen Institute
The last four decades of neo-liberal economic policies have exacerbated economic inequality in the U.S., including racial income and wealth gaps linked to slavery and the oppressive policies and practices that followed. Faith in markets, a heavily financialized economy, and a shift in economic risk away from institutions and onto individuals has resulted in wages that lag productivity gains, precarious employment, growing wealth inequality, medical and student debt, housing, childcare, and health care unaffordability, and risks to consumers. Amidst this backdrop of economic precarity is a rising chorus of ideas and policies embracing shared prosperity - the idea of an economy that works for all, not just some, reflected through movements like Fight for 15 and local and state laws to raise the minimum wage, extend health coverage, mandate paid leave, and protect vulnerable workers. The federal government response to the COVID-19 pandemic signaled a willingness to offer bolder economic solutions such as the additional Child Tax Credit (CTC) that resulted in historic reductions in poverty, especially among children. Social work researchers are engaged in research related to the Grand Challenge of Reducing Extreme Economic Inequality: the effects of the CTC and other public benefits programs, universal basic income, public benefits cliffs, asset building, employment practices, harmful financial services practices, and more. The goal of this roundtable is to cultivate critical dialogue about the knowledge gains social workers are producing and how our research can be better leveraged at an historical moment in which the general public is open to new economic ideas. Accordingly, the roundtable will focus on the following questions: 1. What are we learning? What new insights are needed that better speak to specific policy leverage points? Should we be reaching out to researchers in other disciplines? 2. How can qualitative research broaden impact-oriented perspectives and narratives and center these issues on the lived experiences of people harmed by inequality and structural economic racism? 3. How can we better leverage knowledge to effect change? Can we form closer partnerships with think tanks, advocacy organizations, and policy makers? Answers to these questions will be framed around a definition of financial well-being (FWB), particularly among marginalized populations, which includes the ability to 1) meet basic needs; 2) build wealth; 3) manage debt; and 4) be free of economic abuse. Speakers will offer meta narratives concerning their research related to these components of FWB, summarizing key headline insights, resulting public impact, and ideas for better leveraging their research. Next, participants will be invited to offer their own narratives and ideas to produce a fuller set of ideas and priorities to advance economic justice. One of the speakers represents the Aspen Institute and will address how social work researchers can increase their public impact concerning economic inequality through think tank and advocacy group partnerships. The ideas and insights generated from the roundtable will then be summarized in a 1-2 page brief shared with the Reducing Extreme Economic Inequality Grand Challenge group to serve as a benchmark for future conversations.
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